by Claire van Ryn
“Ain’t no ‘hood like motherhood” – so they say!
But a fair whack of us have our misgivings when approaching those ‘hoods of parenting.
On the other side of that psychological hurdle, the mind wrestle of considering all that you must give up in order to achieve the title of Mum or Dad, you can breathe easy. There is so much to be gained. Sure, you might lose some sleep, some cash and some freedom, but once you’re wearing these shoes you’ll realise you have gained so much more.
1. Suddenly, you’re a family. Whether it’s just the two of you, or a whole footy team, you are part of a clan. These peeps are the ones you can be real with. You will share everything with them – from toilet stench and tantrums to birthday celebrations and school reports. You’ll never be alone again.
2. No more “me-me-me!” An unbidden side-effect of parenthood is that you become the responsible one. You might fight it at first, but when you turn your eyes from your navel to your child, wonderful things happen to your character. Your eyes are opened to the needs of others. They matter more than yourself. Wait, what’s this, are you becoming one of those inspiring people already?
3. Up-skilled. You scoff at that term, ‘multi-tasking’. In the workplace, it means talking on the phone while eating a sandwich. As a mum it means having a load of washing on while supervising finger-painting while spreading Vegemite sandwiches while keeping an eye on the lasagne in the oven while reading an article on postmodernism on your laptop. You are the Queen (or King) of multi-tasking, thanks to parenthood. And that’s not to mention your honed management skills, conflict resolution, organisation and personal development. The list goes on.
4. Infinitely more employable. For the reasons in the previous point, mums and dads are the best workers. Time is precious and the whiff of a few minutes spare can spell untold productivity. Honestly, step back into the workplace after having kids and your colleagues will be like, “What’s happened to YOU?”
5. Patience. This quality is hard to acquire in a world of fast-speed this and drive-through that. Value is often measured in pace. One of my favourite parts of being a mum is this: it slows your whole world down. Sometimes that’s positively blissful, and other times it’s excruciating. The painful moments of waiting – for offspring to tidy their room, to learn the alphabet, to eat their dinner or use their manners – they are moments that shape us too. Bit by bit our sharp edges are softened and we can zoom out and get a glimpse of the bigger picture where a few extra minutes tucking a little one to bed are more important than catching up on emails. We enter the ‘hood thinking we’ve got a lot of teaching to do but how quickly we learn that our little ones are teaching us the most.
6. Building memories. When you sit down with someone in the last years of their life, you will quickly discover that memories are their currency. They yearn to share them with you, the exquisite snippets of happiness from years ago. Family is the ultimate incubator of happy memories. As a parent, I even find myself dreaming up ways to create those special moments for my children; moments they will hold onto for the rest of their lives. I imagine us reminiscing them across the dinner table in years to come and steadily adding to the family memory bank.
7. Appreciating the miracle and fragility of life. When you gingerly cradle your baby in your arms for the first time, you’ve been given a lesson in humanity that no university lecturer could hope to replicate. Your baby’s eyes, their fingers, their toes, their cute little bottom – all formed within the womb, out of sight, waiting for completion and that moment of anticipation when all would be revealed. Your heart is inextricably tied to your child so that every experience that is theirs, is felt and heightened by you. Parenthood gives depth and meaning to life in a way you never thought possible.
8. Advocacy. Parents are carers and providers – this is true – but a title that is less often acknowledged or celebrated is that of the advocate. I am mum – which means I champion my children, advocate for their needs, encourage them in their abilities. No one else knows them like I do. There’s another word for the CV, right?
9. Self-worth. A lot of people talk about the way motherhood stripped them of identity. Motherhood can be difficult and I’ve had periods of feeling like merely the cook, taxi-driver, cleaner or disciplinarian. But through the challenges there has been the ability to understand my value as a person – irrespective of my place on the career ladder or how good my bod looks in a bikini. It’s hard to articulate, but those challenging times as a parent have grounded me in a clearer understanding of who I am. And get this – I’m ok with it. I’m happy with who I am. I love who I am!
10. Love. I saved the best for last. The love of a parent for their child is beyond words. We were designed for this – to love and to be loved. Becoming a parent continues the beautiful circle of life and love, giving what you were given (or, for some, perhaps what you were deprived of) as a child. Love heals and restores, it knits people together, it overlooks imperfections and failure, and it triumphs despite the harshest of circumstances. Love is to parenthood as air to the lungs; life-giving!